Chiefs’ Involvement In 1987 Coups And Ensuing Racism Strengthened Padarath’s Resolve To Fight For Justice And Equality

She was among many who despised the overthrow of Dr Timoci Bavadra’s democratically elected coalition government. She stuck to her position until the end.
16 Jul 2019 16:57
Chiefs’ Involvement In 1987 Coups And Ensuing Racism Strengthened Padarath’s  Resolve To Fight For Justice And Equality
The late Lavinia Padarath.


The late Lavinia Padarath believed in the late Dr Timoci Bavadra’s vision of a multiracial Fiji – a nation of one people with a common purpose and destiny.

The former Fiji Labour Party president was among many people who were hurt and disillusioned when Dr Bavadra, the first iTaukei commoner to become a Prime Minister, was toppled in the first military coup led by Sitiveni Rabuka, now the Opposition leader, in May 1987.

She was also concerned about the involvement of some iTaukei chiefs in that coup who gave Mr Rabuka their backing.

One of the questions that arose at the time was this: Was the coup carried out because Dr Bavadra was not a chief?

The widely accepted view was that he was deposed because he was only a figurehead in a predominantly  Indo-Fijian coalition government of the FLP and the National Federation Party.

As a party founder, Mrs Padarath never wavered in her negative view about chiefly involvement in politics since 1987 although she supported the chiefly system. She and Dr Bavadra had one other thing in common. They came from a medical background.

He was Director for Preventative Health in the Ministry of Health. She was a New Zealand trained and registered nurse who served as president and secretary of the Fiji Nurses Association.

She also worked in a number of non-governmental organisations. She and Dr Bavadra shared a common vision.

Dr Bavadra’s influence about his crusade to help the ordinary person was not lost on her.


She saw how racism reared its ugly head in 1987 and how iTaukei jumped on the bandwagon and joined the hysteria of a popular uprising in the name of political supremacy against Indo-Fijians.

This was replicated in 2000 in the Speight coup. She was one of the members of the Labour Government of then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, the first Indo-Fijian PM, who were held hostage at Veiuto.

Again, some of the chiefs were involved in that political turmoil directly and indirectly. The recent call by a chief to keep chiefs away from politics would have resonated well with her because of what she had experienced in her political career.

Ratu Jekesoni Lewenilovo Yavalanavanua, chairman of the Cakaudrove Provincial Council, and from the chiefly clan in Somosomo, Taveuni, said the vanua and chiefs should be separated from politics.

He said this would help the vanua and the chiefly system to survive long term. He said politics had split and weakened the vanua.

His assertion would sit well with the late Mrs Padarath.

If those chiefs were not involved in 1987, there might have been no coup in May and subsequent coups.

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